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For Police, Fun Starts When Sun Sets

On the street with the Herndon Police.

For Herndon Police Officer Mark Fraser, the fun of his 11-hour shift doesn't start until the sun sets.

Fraser, who has been with the Herndon Police for two years, is a bike patrol officer, but while his partner is on vacation, works as a roaming patrol vehicle.

"At sundown, that's when the evening starts for every patrol officer," said Fraser, emphasizing that after dark is when the evening officers see the most action.

As he turned his creeping patrol car through the winding neighborhoods off of Alabama Drive, Fraser admitted he preferred the nights to days when it came to patrolling. "You know the saying, 'the freaks come out at night?'" he joked about some of the things he's seen patrolling in the wee hours. "It can be pretty true sometimes."

After serving in the United States Navy for 10 years, Fraser ended his tour in southern Virginia and moved to Loudoun County to work at the adult detention center as a corrections officer, before joining the Herndon Police Department more than two years ago.

"Initially I wanted to be a fireman," said Fraser, adding that was his role on the ship, but decided it wasn't the right lifestyle for him.

"I can't sit still for that long," he joked. "This job is better because I am doing so much all the time."

Fraser said he chose the Herndon Police because he was ready to take the next step in his career and ready to see his influence on the community.

"I wanted to work patrol, to work the street," said Fraser. "I think I can deal with people well, in my opinion, and I am doing more work with the community than when I was in corrections."

AS HE DRIVES DOWN the narrow residential streets talking about the community, he waves to children on their bikes, moms with babies in strollers and also watches for suspicious behavior in the groups of men he passes.

"When people start seeing the same face, that's a good thing," said Fraser of the neighborhoods he patrols. "When they start asking you what happened, why are you here, that's a good sign we need to patrol the area a little more frequently."

Fraser pulls into a parking lot of an attached housing development, showing an area where they were able to watch and then sneak up on a group of gang members late one night.

"The great thing about being on bike patrol is you can come up on people before they see you," said Fraser. "People can see a patrol car from far away, but on the bike they don't see you until you're in front of them."

Today the parking lot is empty except for a group of children playing football on a patch of grass.

As Fraser waves to the group, he says he tries to show his face as much as possible, that it's important the community feels safe.

"When somebody tells me they're scared outside their front door, that's a cause for alarm from my point of view," said Fraser.

Although it is a Friday night, Fraser said the evening is unusually slow, with only a few traffic violations. But he anticipates once people head home from their nightly activities, things could pick up.

"You can't ever tell when it's going to get busy," he said. "You know certain times that might have more action, but you can't really tell when it's gonna come down."

Fraser said the most common incidents he deals with are the basic marijuana possession, driving under the influence and drunk in public.

Public Information Officer Sgt. Jerry Keys confirmed those are the most common violations, adding this year there have been 17 driving while intoxicated violations, 19 drunk in public violations, 42 larcenies, 25 destruction of property violations and 25 assaults.

Keys said Fraser's military background was a good asset to the department because he came in with enforcement discipline and experience.

"He is not a robot," said Keys. "He just doesn't go out and arrest, he's trying to enforce the laws and make sure people are treated fairly."

FRASER RECENTLY began helping the K-9 unit, working with Special Officer Warrie Proffitt and his dog Brodie.

Participating in training exercises with the German shepherd requires Fraser to act as a culprit, wearing an arm guard and standing in a field while Proffitt goes through the calls with Brodie.

Proffitt explains that Brodie is trained to find various types of narcotics in vehicles and other areas as well as catch people trying to evade arrest.

Proffitt releases Brodie on Fraser to demonstrate his abilities.

"This is a game to him," said Proffitt. "He knows he can't attack him unless he moves, so what he'll try to do is head-butt him, to try and get him to move."

Fraser said that although he has done the exercises before, it still gets his heart beating when the dog runs, full speed, at him thinking he's a bad guy.

"It's amazing what you can train a dog to do," said Fraser, "and what they can train you to do."

When the evening is slow like this, he and Proffitt may run through some training exercises, but both officers are attentive to their radios, stopping often to listen to the dispatcher.

"Because it's a small town everyone can respond quick enough," said Fraser. "Even on the bike ... I can probably be anywhere in 15 minutes tops, in a cruiser obviously you'd get there before that."

After conducting a routine traffic stop within 30 seconds another patrol vehicle was at Fraser's side making sure he was OK.

It's this feeling of camaraderie that Fraser said he likes about the department. That and knowing that he is doing his part for the town.

"Knowing I am out here doing good, providing a service and taking bad guys off the street," said Fraser, "is a very good feeling."